Exploring influences on adolescent diet and physical activity in rural Gambia, West Africa: food insecurity, culture and the natural environment
Janha RE., Hardy-Johnson P., Kehoe SH., Mendy MB., Camara I., Jarjou L., Ward K., Moore SE., Fall C., Barker M., Weller S.
AbstractObjective:To explore, from the perspectives of adolescents and caregivers, and using qualitative methods, influences on adolescent diet and physical activity in rural Gambia.Design:Six focus group discussions (FGD) with adolescents and caregivers were conducted. Thematic analysis was employed across the data set.Setting:Rural region of The Gambia, West Africa.Participants:Participants were selected using purposive sampling. Four FGD, conducted with forty adolescents, comprised: girls aged 10–12 years; boys aged 10–12 years; girls aged 15–17 years, boys aged 15–17 years. Twenty caregivers also participated in two FGD (mothers and fathers).Results:All participants expressed an understanding of the association between salt and hypertension, sugary foods and diabetes, and dental health. Adolescents and caregivers suggested that adolescent nutrition and health were shaped by economic, social and cultural factors and the local environment. Adolescent diet was thought to be influenced by: affordability, seasonality and the receipt of remittances; gender norms, including differences in opportunities afforded to girls, and mother-led decision-making; cultural ceremonies and school holidays. Adolescent physical activity included walking or cycling to school, playing football and farming. Participants felt adolescent engagement in physical activity was influenced by gender, seasonality, cultural ceremonies and, to some extent, the availability of digital media.Conclusions:These novel insights into local understanding should be considered when formulating future interventions. Interventions need to address these interrelated factors, including misconceptions regarding diet and physical activity that may be harmful to health.